Bill Keller is an OpEd writer for the New York Times whose columns appear on Monday. In his previous career as executive editor of the Times, he played a starring role in the ginning-up of the Bush press campaign for the invasion of Iraq. He admits that under his leadership,
The Times wrote a number of really bad stories – inadequately sourced, unskeptical stories – particularly about Saddam’s weapons capabilities. And those stories were rewarded with lavish front page display.Today, he writes in his column that the problem with U.S. policy on Syria is basically that we need to 'get over' Iraq, because 'Syria is not Iraq'. And if we're going to go in sometime anyway, let's do it now. 'Why wait'?
The Times also wrote some very good stories, more skeptical stories, and those tended to be buried on page you know A13.
So there is – you know reporters respond to those sorts of incentives. So there was, at least some reporters, who went to feed that hunger for scoops.
Keller's case is that 'Syria is not Iraq' because 1) "we have a genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one"; 2) "in Iraq our invasion unleashed a sectarian war. In Syria, it is already well under way"; 3) 'we have options that do not include putting American troops on the ground, a step nobody favors"; and 4) in Iraq we had to cajole and bamboozle the world into joining our cause. This time we have allies waiting for us to step up and lead" including Israel which is already acting on its own.
The U.S. national interest Keller sees in an intervention in Syria comes down to a long-term defense of Israel and an effort to maintain our national prestige over and against Iran and China, but Israel is not really threatened by any Syrian development, and national prestige in opposition to China and Iran is a goal that only the Kiplingesque can love.
Keller thinks and that we can intervene without introducing ground troops and that we'll have plenty of 'allies', but what if our initial investment in air power, military supplies and proxies doesn't work and our 'allies' don't appear or don't follow our orders? Wouldn't he be the first, then to clamour for more serious investments in order not to be embarrassed or defeated?
In his review of the Keller column, the Nation's Greg Mitchell delivers a good rejoinder:
Keller concludes: “Whatever we decide, getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.” Then we can get over Syria—with Iran? Remember when Iraq was supposed to help us “get over” Vietnam?